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Month: June 2008 (Page 1 of 3)

Afterthoughts on the State of Search

Search for the whole enterprise vs. point solutions was the subject of some discussion, especially since our keynote speaker, Stephen Arnold gave strong guidance that you can’t think about one search solution (“product”) for the entire enterprise and all content. This is something with which I pretty much agree, in most cases.

Just emerging from the Gilbane San Francisco conference, six sessions on search and a workshop I conducted, I want to share a couple of general impressions. Details and expanded reflections will follow in the days and weeks to come.

Search for the whole enterprise vs. point solutions was the subject of some discussion, especially since our keynote speaker, Stephen Arnold gave strong guidance that you can’t think about one search solution (“product”) for the entire enterprise and all content. This is something with which I pretty much agree, in most cases. However, a question arose in one of the sessions in which a couple of presentations talked about a single search engine for what appeared to be the entire enterprise. A member of the audience asked for clarification in view of Arnold’s earlier comments.

I chose to intercede so as not to put our speakers on the defensive about what, for their organizations were very reasonable choices. Both of the cases were for research or professional services organizations with a high incidence of uniformity in the scope and type of content. They are relatively flat in structure with the bulk of the population being researchers: consultants, engineers, scientists. The applications were for intranets that were being leveraged to connect content and experts, so that from either direction (finding an expert and then looking at their content, or finding content to reveal expertise) other professionals could leverage organizational knowledge. It is a safe bet that other search does exist elsewhere in these companies, even if it is in stealth mode or embedded in other applications. Still, in general, large organizations with highly differentiated personnel with functional and disparate content requirements will find value in point search solutions that may only have purpose in a single internal domain.

To that point, if you are a finance professional or business manager you might want to sign up for a webinar this Thursday, June 26th, when I will be laying out a business case for a particular kind of search solution that is targeted at your demographic. This Apps Associates sponsored webinar also describes a solution leveraging Oracle enterprise search, but the ideas in it will give you a sense of what search can provide in your domain.

Judging from the topics presented on search, the reasons and ways in which it is being applied are more diverse than even I imagined. Opinions about what is good/bad, appropriate or not, and how to approach search technology ran the gamut of simple to complex. Two strong points of view were expressed about taxonomy vs. just tagging or letting the search engine categorize. Neither side would give an inch to the other as having an approach that is often “good enough.” It is pretty clear that hybrid solutions offering both a structured approach to search where a taxonomy is applied through metadata, and auto-categorization by the search engine without a supporting taxonomy in the background will be applied in many enterprises.

Adlib Software and LORENZ Life Sciences Sign OEM Agreement

Adlib Software and LORENZ Life Sciences announced that they have signed an OEM agreement. Under the terms of the agreement, LORENZ will license and embed Adlib’s ExpressConversion technology into future versions of LORENZ’s docuRender for MS-Word product. Adlib and LORENZ aim to eliminate submission quality concerns and automate and streamline regulatory publishing with submission-ready PDFs delivered through LORENZ’s docuBridge submission management solution. Many life sciences organizations attempt to build document conversion solutions in-house or use systems that are not suited to the rigors of the FDA eCTD (electronic Common Technical Documents) standard. Adlib and LORENZ can accommodate the large number (into the tens of thousands) and types of documents generated in today’s research environments, integrate the solution into an organization’s document workflow and provide the quality and compliance to meet any standard or regulation.,

What is Semantic Technology Anyway?

Meaning is a very large concept in every aspect of search technology and dozens of search product sites include either the words “semantic” or “meaning” as a key element of the offered technology. This is not as far fetched as search product claims to “know” what the searcher wants to find, as if “knowing” can be attributable to non-human operations. However, how well a search engine indexes and retrieves content to meet a searcher’s intent, is truly in the eyes of the beholder. I can usually understand why, technically speaking, a piece of content turns up in a search result, but that does not mean that it was a valid scrap for my intent. My intent for a search cannot possibly be discernible by a search engine if, as is most often the case, I don’t explicitly and eloquently express what, why, and other contextual facts when entering a query.

The session we have set aside at Gilbane San Francisco for a discussion on current activity related to semantic technologies will undoubtedly reveal more meaning about technologies and art of leveraging tools to elicit semantically relevant content. I suspect that someone will also stipulate that what works requires a defined need and clear intent during the implementation process – but what about all those fuzzy situations? I hope to find out.

This is the last posting before the conference this week so I hope you will add this enterprise search session (EST-6: Semantic Technology – Breakdown or Breakthrough) being moderated by Colin Britton to your agenda on June 19th. He will be joined by speakers: Steve Carton, VP Content Technologies, Retrieval Systems Corp., Folksonomies: Just Good Enough for all Kinds of Thing, Prakesh Govindarajulu, President, RealTech Inc, Building Enterprise Taxonomies from the Ground Up, and Jack Jia, Founder & CEO, Baynote.

See you in San Francisco in person or virtually thereafter.

Sun Announces Agreement to Acquire MySQL

Sun Microsystems, Inc. (NASDAQ: JAVA) announced it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire MySQL AB, an open source icon and developer of open source databases for approximately $1 billion in total consideration. The acquisition accelerates Sun’s position in enterprise IT to now include the $15 billion database market. With millions of global deployments including Facebook, Google, Nokia, Baidu and China Mobile, MySQL will bring synergies to Sun that will help drive new adoption of MySQL’s open source database in more traditional applications and enterprises. The integration with Sun will extend the commercial appeal of MySQL’s offerings and improve its value proposition with the addition of Sun’s global services organization. MySQL will also gain new distribution through Sun’s channels including its OEM relationships with Intel, IBM and Dell. MySQL’s open source database is the “M” in LAMP – the software platform comprised of Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP/Perl. Sun is committed to enhancing and optimizing the LAMP stack on GNU/Linux and Microsoft Windows along with OpenSolaris and MAC OS X. The database from MySQL, OpenSolaris and GlassFish, together with Sun’s Java platform and NetBeans communities, will create a Web application platform across a wide range of customers shifting their applications to the Web. Following completion of the proposed transaction, MySQL will be integrated into Sun’s Software, Sales and Service organizations and the company’s CEO, Marten Mickos, will be joining Sun’s senior executive leadership team. In the interim, a joint team with representatives from both companies will develop integration plans that build upon the technical, product and cultural synergies and the best business and product development practices of both companies. MySQL is headquartered in Cupertino, CA and Uppsala, Sweden and has 400 employees in 25 countries. As part of the transaction, Sun will pay approximately $800 million in cash in exchange for all MySQL stock and assume approximately $200 million in options. The transaction is expected to close in late Q3 or early Q4 of Sun’s fiscal 2008. Completion of the transaction is subject to regulatory approval and other customary closing conditions. The deal is expected to be accretive to FY10 operating income on a GAAP basis.,

“Who Are Vignette’s Products Really Best Suited For?”

An attendee at an industry conference recently asked me, “Who are Vignette’s products really best suited for?” While the full answer to this broad question would require a consulting engagement to deliver, the short version is “medium-sized and large enterprises that have needs for a unified WCM, collaboration, and portal solution.” While each of these Vignette applications is fully functional on its own, the real value proposition of Vignette’s products stems from the synergies of tightly integrating all three modules. In support of this statement, one client several months ago bluntly stated that for the kind of static Web publishing it had in mind, the Vignette Content Management product was “too complicated and too expensive.” I agreed. But for larger enterprises with collaborative intranets, extranets, or public-facing internet sites – especially those with demanding requirements for dynamic content and personalization – less sophisticated Web publishing solutions would certainly fail, regardless of price.

Gilbane Boston call for papers deadline extended 1 week

We’ve been so busy getting ready for next week’s conference in San Francisco that it was a bit of a surprise to be deluged with submissions for our Boston conference yesterday. Of course that is because the deadline for submitting proposals for the Gilbane Boston conference, December 2 – 4, 2008 was June 15. It’s great to see the interest!
Anyway, since we will all be very busy next week, we realized we might as well extend the deadline, so the new deadline in June 24.
See: for instructions.
Questions can be sent to

Clickability Platform: Improved Marketing Campaign Management

In a recent consulting project, the Gilbane Group had the opportunity to get a hands-on look at the current version of the Clickability Platform. Several marketing-oriented product enhancements over the past year will be of particular interest to our clients. While the product maintains its strengths in traditional online publishing (due in part to its origins in the publishing industry), there have been major improvements in areas such as analytics and reporting, social computing, and user interface design. In fact, Clickability has re-oriented its Platform to align specifically with the usage and campaign requirements of non-technical online marketing managers. Although product features such as in-context editing, workflow, library services, and user management, remain important and robust parts of the product, the new social computing functionality for online visitor collaboration have done much to bring Clickability to the forefront of Web 2.0-oriented content management offerings. This functionality includes out-of-the-box support for visitor loyalty profiles, discussion boards, visitor ratings, blogs, wikis, and podcasts.

Combining these new social computing components with improvements to Clickability’s analytics and reporting capabilities makes the product a natural fit for companies looking for a Web content platform to support online marketing initiatives. Areas of improvement within analytics and reporting include visitor analysis, profile targeting and reporting, campaign management, A/B split testing, reporting dashboards, ad weighting, and embedded in-context statistics. While organizations looking for a Web content management application to support traditional online publishing can still successfully use the product, they may find the marketing-orientation of the product unnecessary or awkward. And because good analytics and reporting in the service of online campaign management delivers high value for online retailers (in the form of higher average sales prices and better conversation rates among online shoppers), the product may demand a higher price than those publishing static HTML sites can justify. But for at least one of Clickability’s target audiences – online retail marketing managers – the new version of this platform warrants careful, hands-on consideration.

Enterprise Search Expands Beyond the Box

Hustling through my preparation list before the Gilbane San Francisco conference I have come to the fifth session on enterprise search that I’ll be moderating, Mining, Analyzing and Delivering Intelligent Content, featuring Amin Negandi, Principal, Echelon Consulting LLC, speaking on Enterprise Search at A.T. Kearney, and Rob Joachim, Information Systems Engineering Lead, MITRE Corporation presenting a case study on the development of An Expertise Finder Application Built on Enterprise Search. In listening to both of them talk about their projects, these are “must-attend” presentations for those seeking to build search-based solutions for their organizations. Both are examples of the practical and real challenges that surround value building projects. Both have positive outcomes but are hardly implementations that will become static legacy deployments; sustaining a value-based system is an ongoing activity.

As the session abstract states, there are as many technologies for finding content as there are types of content and types of enterprises. Locating a pile of links or citations is rarely the end game for those who really seek to leverage content. Both presenters in this session will talk about solutions that serve real and critical needs for one enterprise, in the first case being able to securely search content across a professional services firm in which collaboration is important within defined proprietary boundaries.

The second case also touches on the need for collaboration and sharing, in this case by enabling location of individuals who are experts. Using the context of content and associations to which they are linked for “defining” individual expertise, search filters relevant metadata to reveal those individuals. Connections are made to locate people and their professional work.

Delivering search results intelligently requires not only technology but also the art of the implementation team. Keeping the focus on specific business outcomes is the essence of ensuring that search delivers intelligent content. The stories of what problem was targeted, what tools were deployed, and how search was implemented by savvy search specialists are the most interesting and useful for learning. Finding out that serendipity also plays a role is getting closer to the best solution is always fun to discover in the process. We’ll be listening on June 19th.

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